BERNAR VENET FOUNDATION

 

WEBSITE: www.venetfoundation.org
LOCATION: 53 CHEMIN DU MOULIN DES SERRES, 83490 LE MUY, FRANCE
NEAREST AIRPORTS: NICE CôTE d’AZUR AIRPORT, 50 MINS DRIVE

 

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The foundation was closed when I visited the south of France, but they were good enough to agree to my visit as I was doing research for my site and didn’t know when I would next be back. I thought I would be whisked through the Foundation by the very handsome Max who opened the door to me, but was led to Mr Venet’s living room where he greeted me with a cup of coffee and oh so much French charm. This was going to be a treat.

I learnt that one should always check visiting hours more carefully (the foundation opens to visitors June – end of September), but also that Bernar Venet is very generous with his time. We sat for almost two hours talking about the art scene in New York, where he lived and worked throughout the 60s and 70s, before returning to France in the 80s. It was a great time to be in New York. Apart from gaining his own critical success, he became friendly with his contemporaries, befriending and collecting works by American greats such as Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, James Lee Byers and more. Some of them even made works especially for him, like Cesar who compressed Mr Venet’s car into a sculpture.

It was this collection that in part inspired him to open his studio (and home) to the public. A 18th century mill and surrounding land has been converted into a sort of home-museum. There are many of Venet’s works, of course, on display, but so are the works that he has collected, some of which are deeply personal to Mr Venet. The house is not usually open to visitors but the gardens and galleries in the back certainly are.

A 2,000 meter exhibition space, once a factory to manufacture rails lines, is now home to Mr. Venet’s mammoth sculptures. Giant corten steel curved bars scattered like pick-up-sticks, the works look weightless and unmoving. There is also a large pristine gallery space, designed by Berthier + Llamata Architects, where temporary exhibitions are hosted, at times, but not always, based on the works in his collection.

Mr Venet invests his private money generated from international sales of his work to maintain the foundation and its employees. The gardens are beautifully kept, as well as the manmade waterfall over the river. It is a really lovely day visit and the homey atmosphere makes the foundation well worth the journey. Le Muy isn’t the most happening of little French villages but you can certainly find some nice places to eat in the small town square.